No Exit’s COVID Compliant Shoot Actually Gave The Film Some Unexpected Advantages

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced all sorts of challenges and innovations when it came to the world of producing movies, causing shutdowns and delays on some films, like Mission: Impossible 7. Looking into the process that helped director Damian Power and his cast create the Hulu original thriller No Exit, a unique picture of the pandemic influenced filmmaking starts to form that allowed things to keep moving. Surprisingly, the COVID compliant shoot actually gave the film some unexpected advantages, which only heightened the intensity of the mostly single location-based mystery. 

As No Exit’s press day rolled along, I was able to speak with Damian Power and several cast members about how they felt in regards to the process. Two key factors made for a unique experience, and one of them was the fact that Power was able to shoot most of the film in sequential order. As he told CinemaBlend, that wasn’t always in the cards, but it actually lent a very helping hand to the tone of the film: 

I like to do it in story order as much as possible, but it really was because of the situation. We shot the film in Auckland, New Zealand, the cast had come from the US, and were there for the duration of the shoot. We were not working around anyone’s schedules, I had them. They were trapped. It was just a rare opportunity to actually shoot the thing, pretty much in order. It was a great experience for me, it was great for the cast, because as the film becomes more intense, so did the shoot.

Going into No Exit as cold as possible is something I highly recommend to any potential viewers reading at this moment, as Hulu’s February 2022 lineup could have a breakout hit in its adaptation of author Taylor Adams' novel. However, the basic concept can be laid out in order to provide the proper background. Following the journey of recovering addict Darby (Havana Rose Liu), the film sees her trapped in a visitor’s center with four strangers and a deadly secret suggesting that one of them isn’t as safe as they seem. That's all you really need to know in terms of why the mystery is so compelling and why the production's key advantages worked so well.

The decision to shoot the central mystery in sequence came from the fact that, as Damian Power revealed, the entire cast and crew was shooting in a bubble. The Muir’s Rest visitor’s center that makes up the majority of No Exit’s frosty setting was actually a set that was built and shot on a soundstage at Penrose Studio. With two weeks of quarantine built in for the cast, an intense rehearsal period was used to help everyone lock into their characters.

When it came to 24 and Lucifer star Dennis Haysbert and his role of Ed, one of the four strangers Darby encounters at Muir’s Rest, the sequential shoot and two-week rehearsal was definitely seen as a blessing. Not only did Haysbert agree that the pacing of the story was better suited by the production ramping up alongside the story, but the quarantine experience was also a key component to shaping his character. Here’s how Dennis Haysbert reflected on his No Exit experience:

Everything that happens in the visitor’s center is shot in sequence. So you just see this steady rise through that creshendo, and it’s a beautiful thing to experience, and a beautiful thing to watch. … We really had to hunker down, they delivered your food to your door. All you did was you had your script, you had your writing paper, and [you were] just taking notes. Letting it ruminate and ferment, until when you finally got on set, and finally had that meeting with the director. … That’s one of the rare things about this cast and other casts I’ve been involved with. Everyone just absolutely adored everyone else, and when you have that kind of camaraderie, that kind of connectivity, whatever you do is right.

The two-week rehearsal period allowed No Exit’s core cast, which is rounded out by character actors like Dale Dickey and David Rysdahl, as well as one of the breakout stars of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Danny Ramirez, to really dig into their characters. By time the movie went into its shooting phase, the thrills that were depicted were so well honed that the experience is still fondly remembered by all. As Havana Rose Liu provided her thoughts, you can clearly tell this intense shoot only heightened her quest to break some stereotypes with the character of Darby:

I think for me, once I met everyone in the cast, and was able to see the dynamic in hand, it clicked in a way that was almost indescribable. I actually just got chills talking about it. I think really seeing the way those dynamics were about to play out on screen, and seeing the way us as cast members were able to sort of lean into these trusting relationships, in part because of the ones we were already building, it all felt honestly like we were being taken care of by the gods.

While the world was given many obstacles to overcome in the early days of COVID-19, No Exit is one of the best examples of triumphing over those odds. In a COVID-compliant setting, the cast and crew were able to provide the world with a streaming thriller that could prove to be quite a hit in the world of at home distribution. You can watch the mystery unfold for yourself, as No Exit is currently available to stream in the exclusive library of Hulu movies

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.